On a typical day in the neighboring communities of Nederland, Port Neches, and Groves, Texas, three dispatch operators are responsible for answering and routing all 911 calls in the area – around 60 to 70 calls each day.
That all changed in the fall of 2017.
By August 30, 2017, Hurricane Harvey had shifted course in the Gulf of Mexico and unexpectedly poured 64.51 inches of rain on the communities, most of which came down in one day.
Fighting heavy rains and historic flooding, two additional operators were brought in to manage the call volume. Working night and day for five days, the dispatchers managed the more than 3,200 calls from residents in their communities and around the region.
This storm was Chief Paul Lemoine's fourth hurricane with the Port Neches Police Department, and, in his experience, communication has always been key to a successful operation.
His department faced the challenges of technology that couldn't keep up during previous storms. With no way to take outside calls because of failed communication systems, officers had previously been forced to rely on word-of-mouth communication, he said. In the past, flooding neighborhoods with volunteers and officers going door-to-door was necessary to ensure everyone got the help they needed.
But, not this time.
Throughout the weather event, dispatchers continually relayed pertinent information about people in need and physical road blocks to officers in the field using walkie talkies and cell phones.
"We all had houses that had flooded, and we were all actively doing water rescues for several hours at a time, and we were being inundated with rescue requests," Lemoine said. "We really relied on our dispatchers to relay that information to keep us from wasting time and continually moving forward. It was the middle of the night. We were up to our necks in water, getting in and out of boats, so it was really a lifesaver for us."
When the rain stopped, the sun finally reappeared, and the flooding started to recede, dispatchers helped direct officers to find and rescue more than 180 people. Empowered with timely, accurate information and a connection that lasted through the storm, no lives were lost and no officer was injured in the field.
In a community with abandoned or otherwise dangerous buildings, prior knowledge about a location can mean the difference between life and death for fire crews.
According to Cindy Culp, battalion chief with the Independence Fire Dept. in Missouri, access to first-hand knowledge about structures helps fire fighters stay safer when responding to emergencies throughout the city.
Independence is located in the Kansas City metro area. Like many communities near large cities, there are areas with blighted structures and other buildings in disrepair. When fire crews are dispatched to these areas for a fire or other emergency, it's important for them to know what potential danger can be found on the scene.
"As soon as fire crews have boots on the ground, they're working toward keeping everyone safe on the scene, from the civilians involved to the crews themselves," Culp said. "But they also want to prevent or reduce any damage, especially during a fire call."
To ensure fire crews have all of the information they need while on the scene of a fire or other emergency, fire crews access data on the mobile data terminals (MDTs) located in their rescue vehicles.
This data comes directly from computer aided dispatch (CAD), and provides crews with information about the location including prior history, onsite known hazards or chemicals, hydrant locations, and anything else pertinent to staying safe.
"Anytime fire crews are in a building that has the potential to collapse due to damage from disrepair or fire, it's important that they know this before entering the structure," Culp said. "We're able to provide our fire crews with this information, so they know what they might encounter in a given situation."
Public safety agencies throughout the United States gather an enormous amount of data every day. With the ability to harness and use this data, public safety personnel have the actionable intelligence needed to employ intelligence-led policing initiatives and create safer communities.
As communication needs continue to change, it's important to have technology that stays ahead of trends and meets future requirements. With many public safety answering points (PSAPs) preparing for or implementing Next Generation 911, understanding what that initiative entails is critical.
With map-based computer aided dispatch (CAD) systems, dispatchers in public safety agencies ensure patrol effectively covers an entire area – not just criminal hotspots. The Greenbelt Police Dept. in Maryland uses this technology to keep their community safe.
Source: Charleston Gazette-MailBy Giuseppe Sabella
A Kanawha County sheriff’s deputy used three letters to describe her dangerous foot pursuit: AVL.
The automatic vehicle locator tracks first responders from more than 50 agencies throughout the county, and it may have saved Cpl. Stephanie Adams’ life.
Metro 911 officials said the upgrade launched in September and has since helped law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters and county residents.
Read the full story …
When public safety agencies have predictive policing capabilities, law enforcement officials use data to predict, prevent, and reduce crime. The Everett Police Department, located in Snohomish County, Washington, used predictive policing capabilities to reduce thefts in the city.
Take a look back at this article to find out how the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office in Illinois, was able to use information sharing and data integration to bring a burglary ring to justice.
When cutbacks in 2015 resulted in a reduction of officers on patrol throughout Kankakee County, the county experienced a rash of burglaries.
For three weeks, burglars ransacked homes in search of guns, jewelry, electronics, cash and anything else of value.
"It got to the point where you were either a victim of the burglaries, neighbors with someone who had been a victim or afraid of becoming a victim," according to Becky Powell, Investigation's Officer Manager for the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office.
When it comes to the world of public safety, dispatchers and first responders are always ready to provide help when it’s needed most.
Take a look back at the work of public safety officials throughout the country by exploring these stories on The Call:
Reducing Gang Activity Using Predictive Policing
Lightning Strike Causes Six-Alarm Fire in Rural Oregon
Saving Time with Fire Response Plans in CAD
Have a story you would like to share with The Call? Let us know!
This article is part four in a four-part series on fire responses and the roles of firefighters in the US
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
In the world of emergency responses, sometimes radio communication is not enough.
When fire crews in Connelly, NY responded to a house fire where an individual was trapped inside, they experienced what it's like responding to an emergency and wishing for another way to communicate with their units and responding mutual aid companies.
In this particular situation, a neighbor reported the house fire after he was roused from his sleep due to the front windows of his neighbor's home blowing out as a result of the fire's heat. This individual also reported that the man's vehicle was parked in the driveway, which indicated that he was possibly still inside the home as the fire was burning.
"For fire crews, we're always going to work to make sure citizens are kept safe from the dangers of fires and other emergencies," Ulster County's assistant fire chief Robert Rausch who responded to that fire said. "When we responded to this call, which happened in the middle of the night, we knew that the element of danger was increased due to the information that the caller told dispatch, as he was rather certain that an individual was still inside the home."
When fire crews arrived on scene, the front entrance to the home was engulfed in flames. According to Rausch, crews began attacking the fire immediately to control the flame and gain access to the home to begin searching for the resident. Mutual aid was called in to dispatch by the fire chief on the scene requesting more equipment and personnel.
The large response to this house fire required more on-the-scene coordination than a typical fire emergency. To facilitate this coordination, the fire department set up incident command on scene, allowing for better communication regarding all aspects of the response.
Incident command helps manage responders, units, and resources along with planning to manage the effectiveness of what is available for conducting scene operations. It helps response personnel to know who oversees a particular scene.
With this house fire, incident command facilitated multiple crews designated to search and rescue along with those fighting the fire.
"Even with incident command in place, we relied on radio communication to speak with everyone involved in the response," Rausch said. "This was the only way we were able to tell where everyone was located and learn the whereabouts of incoming units."
While crews worked on ventilating the home, and performing search and rescue to locate the individual inside the structure, incident command helped ensure all crew members had as much information as possible to stay safe on the scene.
"Information is vital in any emergency response," Rausch said. "Accessing that vital information is key to keeping first responders and citizens as safe as possible."
Read more: How Firefighters Reduce Risk and Increase Preparedness Using Technology
Capturing Data for Better Inmate Identification
Improved Accuracy with eCitation
Creating Safer Communities By Working Together
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